Amniocentesis- The Pros and Cons

Since our first appointment at the high-risk prenatal center, we were asked to have an Amniocentesis. This is a test where the doctor inserts a needle down through the stomach using the ultrasound as a guide to remove some amniotic fluid. The fluid is then tested for chromosomal abnormalities or genetic birth defects. It takes several weeks to get the results of the Amniocentesis.
We have declined the Amniocentesis, up to this point, for many reasons. From the beginning, it was not an option for us to “choose” not to have the baby because of her diagnosis. Often people choose to have an ultrasound to find out what issues the child will have and then may decide not to have the child. We knew whatever her issues we were going to do our best to provide for her so it wasn’t of any benefit to us to do the procedure early in the pregnancy. The doctor reminded us that if we learned our daughter was diagnosed with a chromosomal abnormality that was incompatible with life than they would be able to perform a procedure where they could drain the fluid from her brain in utero, and then have her born vaginally. There was little chance she would ever survive the procedure. While a vaginal birth would mean a lot to me, that was not an option for us to consider! We were fine with waiting to find out exactly what chromosomal issues we may be dealing with down the line.
There are also many risks associated with having an Amniocentesis performed early in the pregnancy. These risks include infection, miscarriage, and possible club foot. The risk for miscarriage lowers the later in the pregnancy the procedure is performed. It is also best to find a provider that has a lot of experience in performing an Amnio. Most Amniocentesis is performed in the second trimester. Finally, the day came when it was decided we would do an Amniocentesis to check the lung maturity of our daughter. We had put it off as long as we could, we were now 36 weeks pregnant and hoped her lungs were developed. Her head was growing so large and we were hoping to get the fluid drained quickly after birth, hopefully as soon as possible. After the fluid was removed, the baby’s heart rate was monitored for about an hour.
There was quite a delay with us getting our results. The machine malfunctioned several times and then they decided to send it to UT medical center to have them test it. We waited several hours at the doctors office, then we left and waited for them to call us and let us know the results. We were hoping to get a surfactant level of 55 or close, this would mean her lungs were developed. Surfactant is the lung coating, it’s excreted into the amniotic fluid. The doctors seemed to think she’d be ready, then we’d proceed with making plans for her birth and shunt surgery. We finally received the call only to find out that the surfactant level was 19! Needless to say, we were quite disappointed. This number was a lot lower than anyone expected. This brought on a lot more anxiety, now we were worrying she’d be born too early and would have lung issues to deal with. We certainly didn’t want that on top of everything else. So now we wait and hope I don’t go into labor on my own. My first daughter was born at 36 weeks naturally, so this makes me very nervous.